Saturday, April 19, 2008

Transit that could have been

An interesting blog forum, io9, posted a cool story on "The Public Transit Projects that Should Have Been", looking at mostly American cities and their plans for electric trams, monorails, or suspended gondolas to serve as mass transit forms.

One funny note reminded me of an Ottawa experiment in mass transportation:
In some cases, city planners actually ripped out existing transit systems like Los Angeles' once-enormous cable car network. What would these cities and others look like if their public transit systems had continued to thrive and we lived in a world without cars?
Much the way Los Angeles apparently tore up cable-car lines, Ottawa did the same thing in the 1950s, as chronicled in Donald Findlay Lewis' contribution to the book Construire une capitale - Ottawa - Making a Capital, which was entitled "A Capital Crime? The Long Death of Ottawa's Electric Railway". Findlay's paper begins with a cautionary note for planners looking to address the city's current transit needs:
"As Ottawa ponders light rail, it is important to know more about the electric railway whose memory is so empowering to rail's friends, as well as to the foes of motor expressways and bus transitways. We must ask ourselves if Ottawans did indeed love the electric railway. And if we conclude they did, then we must conclude as well that it suffered an untimely demise, that it was in fact the victim of a "capital crime"? While these two questions might seem to demand either a definitive yes or no, the answer here is more contingent, more time-bound. Here it will be argued that Ottawans did--as is now recalled--once love their electic railway. Indeed, it was a source of immense civic pride. Nevertheless, they celebrated its demise as fervently as they hailed its birth. In 1959, they wished it good riddance" (p. 349).

No comments: